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Forum begins look at local health needs

HOUGHTON – Thursday night’s forum on mental and behavioral health needs was just the beginning.

The Portage Health Foundation and James Ruppe Foundation are launching a series of forums on getting community ideas for solutions to unmet health ideas in Baraga, Houghton, Keweenaw and Ontonagon counties.

The idea for the forums first came from UP Health System – Marquette intensive care nurse Ann Clancy-Klemme, who brought it up at a foundation meeting. That led to a discussion on how best to engage the community and get input, which will be considered along other data such as a community health risk needs assessment.

“We could sit here and have a meeting that restates the obvious challenges that we have, but what we’re hoping to do is use this as a catalyst to start the conversation on ‘How do we start finding solutions to the problem?'” said Board Director Kevin Store.

Many people who come to the ICU have problems dating far back before then, Clancy-Klemme said. The same thing is true when they’re discharging patients.

“We can’t get the resources for them – not necessarily because they’re not there, but because they’re not coordinated, they’re dispersed, and we don’t understand how one is connected to the other,” she said.

Store said the broad base of attendees – service organizations, hospitals, law enforcement, mental and behavior health, emergency medicine and more – demonstrates a commitment on the attendees part to investing in the community. And the breadth of interest will itself be a resource to help meet community needs.

“It’s not so much about the capacity to provide services,” he said. “What we really are looking at is ‘How do we reform the ideas and how do we create efficiencies to utilize what resources we do have better?'”